A long time coming

Those of you who have been with me for a while may remember me beginning work on covering my sofa with crochet (apparently, that was July 2014). I started well – I made a cover using a different design for each of the five large cushions that we lean on:


phase 1 completed a long time ago

Next I planned to make a large rectangular piece to go over the seat cushions. The colours were the same, but this was stripy. I started, but I got really fed up with the very long rows and work ground to a halt. I also started to wonder whether it was the most sensible way to cover the seat cushions – would it move about to much when in use?. Boredom combined with uncertainty does not lead to finished projects and so it remained a work in progress.

When the beginning of this year arrived, however, I decided that I wanted to shift some of my unfinished projects – either I was going to complete them or they were going to go. So, once the woolly hug and a charity blanket were completed, the sofa cover was next on the list. I braced myself for long, dull rows, but actually it wasn’t too bad. On further consideration, I decided that the seat cushions would each need separate covers, but the stripy piece could cover the back of the sofa. So I crocheted on and finally reached a size that seemed suitable. I edged it with a single row of double crochet and here it is:


those rows are SO long

Initially I was going to make some gussets for the sides, but actually it works really well (at least for the time being) as a simple throw. Of course, once the fancy cushions are in place, you can’t see much of the stripes, but I know they are there!


stripes peeking out

So far all the work has been done using double knitting wool, but I’m going to progress on to something a little thicker now. Fortunately, New Lanark, who make the wool, do the same colours in aran weight and that’s what I plan to use for the seat cushion covers and the pieces to go over the arms… I probably need a sort of pelmet for the front too. This project is not over by a long way, but at least there aren’t any bits languishing around the house unfinished now.

Funnily enough, I’m not the only one celebrating the end of a long-incomplete piece of work… The Twisted Yarn seems to be in the same position today. Anyone else managed a recent big finish?


It’s a cover-up

I’ve been teaching all day today, so I’m out of words. However, to relax this evening I finished off the last of the covers for phase 1 of the crochet sofa. What do you think?

Details, details

Looking at recent posts, I realise that it’s a while since I wrote about anything yarn related. There are two reasons for this. First, I was making something that I didn’t want to reveal until it reached the recipient and since I only posted it on Saturday, it’s going to be a while before it gets to the other side of the world. However, it was a playful project and so I will just tease you with a sneak preview:

I've been using some beads

I’ve been using some beads

And, second, I didn’t want to bore you with more of the same, as I’ve been making more scrunchies and dishcloths to add to my stock for sale. However, I have also crocheted a jumper for Mr Snail’s friend Auguste (more on this in a future post… possibly from him not me) and I have finally come to terms with my button needs.

For some time now I have been waiting for some buttons to be made for me. I’ve waited and waited, but they have not been forthcoming. So, last week I bit the bullet and looked for an alternative source. I had a few requirements: they couldn’t be too heavy, and I didn’t want plastic, metal (Sam chews metal) or wood. So, finally, I settled for some beautiful shell ones. These have arrived and so I’m now completing my sofa cushions (the first phase of covering my sofa). I’m not ready for the grand reveal on this project either because there’s quite a bit of construction yet to do, but here are a few details:

Much of my time has been taken up recently preparing teaching materials, but I’m hoping that I will have a bit more opportunity for creativity in coming weeks.

Still hooking

Recently I have written little about yarn, but this does not mean that I have not been busy with my hook (no knitting recently, although I am about to start a pair of socks). So, as a nice relaxing post for a Sunday evening, I thought I would share the progress on the sofa cushions. This is not the only crochet that I have been working on, but two completed pieces are yet to reach their intended recipients and I don’t want to spoil the surprise in either case.

Like Wild Daffodil I have been having fun with African Flower crochet squares this week (thanks to Mollie and Claire for the inspiration). Eventually I decided that seven was enough to include in my final cushion and had to make myself stop. I used the blues and grey in a variety of combinations so every one looks different:

Sam gave the squares a final inspection - she thinks they are ok

Sam gave the squares a final inspection – she thinks they are ok

These and all the others now need to be edged in dark blue and stitched together (16 per side) to make the final cushion. Then I just have to wait for the buttons (they are being hand made for me) so that I can finish them off. For the time being, here is what all the work so far looks like:

The yarn is 100% wool from New Lanark Mill, it’s all DK and the colours are navy, denim, blueberry (not much of this – only in the small squares), iris, sky and limestone.

Now, excuse me whilst I retire with a glass of wine and a needle to weave about a million ends into the small squares!

This is my life: cheese, squares and a tiny egg

Please note the comma between ‘cheese’ and ‘squares’ – this post is not about processed “cheese” abominations.

So, in reverse order…

Lorna and Tiffany's eggs flanking today's contribution

Lorna and Tiffany’s eggs flanking today’s contribution

This morning I embarked on the usual chores. Once it’s light enough (and sometimes well after) I pull on my Wellington boots and venture out into the mud (known as ‘our garden’ in the summer) to let the hens out. I open their pop hole and the door that lets them out of the small run, then I go into the shed to get a handful or two of corn to scatter for them as a morning treat. Whilst they are pecking around in the corn I take a scoop of layer mash from the feed bin and go and fill up their feeder in the run before returning to the shed with the scoop. It was as I was exiting the shed after putting the scoop away that I noticed what I, at first, thought was a small, slightly muddy potato where the hens were eating their corn . I closed the door and stooped down to examine the object, which turned out to be hard and warm. As far as I can think, there is only one warm ovoid object that might appear suddenly in our garden and that’s an egg… but this one was tiny. So clearly, between the corn being scattered and me finishing the feeding (a period of less than two minutes) an egg had very quietly been laid. It’s so small I’m sure the hen responsible barely noticed – she certainly did not announce its arrival. Who laid it is a mystery… such tiny eggs used to be laid by Perdy, but she is no longer with us. Since Lorna and Tiffany are currently laying normally, I think it must be a first post-moult egg from either Esme or Anna. My money is on Esme as the colour is closest to the eggs that she normally lays. For comparison, the picture shows a Lorna egg (left) and a Tiffany egg (right) with the tiny one in the centre.

Beautiful squares from Jenny at Simply Hooked

Beautiful squares from Jenny at Simply Hooked

Not having solved the mystery of the egg, I returned to the dry and got on with breakfast… homemade yoghurt, homemade granola and home-bottled apple (from apples grown by my dear friends at Highbank). I do love the feeling that I am managing to deliver such a large proportion of my diet without using commercially processed foods. I settled down to work and not long after that the doorbell rang… Henry the postman delivering a new insert for my diary, a book about cheese-making and a lovely parcel of crochet squares. Not long ago, I had an offer of some unwanted crochet squares from Jenny over at Simply Hooked. She has been having a love-hate relationship with this particular project and had decided to let it go… offering the squares to me to use for our friendship blankets that are raising funds for Denmark Farm Conservation Centre. The squares she sent are made of gorgeous, soft merino/cotton yarn… I really hope we can do them justice. If you want a chance to win the resulting blanket, or one of our other creations, I still have raffle tickets on sale and you could also win a long weekend at Denmark Farm in the lovely eco-lodge… details of the raffle here.

I must mention, at this point, that despite a lack of posts, my hands have not been idle in recent weeks. Amongst other things, I have been working on a very large granny square in my palette of blues. This is going to have its corners folded (like a traditional envelope) in to form a sofa cushion cover. It’s nearly large enough and has been a lovely relaxing project… easy on the fingers and the brain!

So, what about that cheese? Well, my first attempt at cheese-making has been a success. I was able to turn the cheese on the evening that I made it (this had to be done twice) and it could be handled easily by the next day. I salted the surface and left it to drain further on Sunday. That morning I used some of the whey (non-salted and pre-treated the night before with lactase enzyme) to make raspberry and white chocolate muffins. The young cheese is firm and crumbly, with a mild creamy flavour. Sprinkled with some freshly ground pepper yesterday and served with homemade bread, it provided me with a very acceptable lunch. In the evening, I crumbled some into baked potato scooped out of its skin, then mashed it up and added a little fried bacon. The resulting mixture was returned to the baked skins, topped with a little local cheddar and grilled for a very tasty dinner.

My friend Snufkin tells me that  she does find the unpredictability of cheese-making frustrating and that’s why I’m a little nervous of the volume of milk and time required to make hard cheese, but I shall give it a go soon. In the mean time, I will be settling down with my new book on cheese-making to drool over all the different varieties and try to work out what I might try next…


I’ve had a hard time writing this post today. I heard the news about the shootings in France when I was part way through and I wondered whether to continue as I was so upset. But, in solidarity with all those who write – and draw – about the world around us and continue to have the freedom to do so, I completed my post (with tears in my eyes). Let us continue to prove the the pencil truly is the most powerful weapon.


The winter blues

It's not just me that's blue!

It’s not just me that’s blue!

I always feel rather glum at this time of year as the days get shorter and shorter and my general ‘bah-humbug’ attitude towards the festival of greed commonly referred to as Christmas grows. This year feels particularly miserable with Mr Snail being away during the week… in  fact he’s just driven off down the road and left me here at home until Friday. So, I’m trying to fill my evenings with creativity.

Gloom, however, is not conducive to starting new projects, so it’s lovely to have the sofa covers to work on, because the colours are already chosen (the sort of winter blues I can welcome) and I already know which designs I’m going to use. The latest cushion is 50% done and makes use of a shell pattern that’s like a half  Bavarian crochet; I’ve just started on the second side of it and am enjoying the look very much (it’s from the book I wrote about in this post). I can’t wait until the handmade buttons are ready so I can complete at least a few of the pieces.

The other project that is keeping me busy is a final blanket for the charity raffle we are running to keep our lovely nature reserve at Denmark Farm properly managed and maintained. Many thanks to those of you who have already bought or offered to buy raffle tickets… you never know, if you win the first prize of a stay in the sustainable lodge on the site, we may get to meet up! And if not, when it’s finished, you might be snuggling up under this (Nia and Ann, you might see something familiar here):

The third creative project to make me smile is also one for charity, but you’ll have to wait a while before I can reveal it… ooh – suspense!

One other thing that helps to brighten my days is knowing that all of you bloggers on the other side of the world are enjoying your growing season… so do keep posting pictures of your gardens and I will be able to dream of what’s round the corner. Which reminds me… time to order some seeds – one of my favorite winter jobs. Perhaps I’m not quite as blue as I thought!

Dark evenings

Over the weekend we changed from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time, putting the clocks back by an hour so that the mornings are lighter (chickens up earlier) and the evenings darker (Max wants to be fed at 5pm). The implications for me are that I’m even more tempted to snuggle down in the evenings with tea, cake and a crochet hook or set of knitting needles.

Squares and Ripples

Squares and Ripples

I am trying very hard not to start any new projects, but this isn’t much of a problem because my crochet sofa covers allow me to work on different bits using different techniques. With this in mind, over the weekend I made a start on the third of the cushion covers. The first uses Attic24’s ripple pattern and is awaiting completion once I’ve sourced some suitable buttons. The second requires 32 granny squares, of which I have made about 20 – some from my new crochet book Connect the Shapes.

Bavarian square

Bavarian square

And so, having been itching to have a proper go at it, cushion number three is in Bavarian crochet. I made a small square using this technique and following Dani’s brilliant tutorial on Teddy and Tottie for the Masterpiece and I have been wanting to make something bigger ever since. Dani sent me a square that is also in the Masterpiece, so I had a beautiful example to follow… always a help when you are learning a new stitch. I made good progress and now I have got the pattern in my head it’s going rather well.

The sofa is currently plain dark blue… I think it’s going to be much more exciting when covered with all this lot (and more):

All destined to be part of the sofa covers

All destined to be part of the sofa covers

Sprucing things up

Looking around our house the other day I realised that you would never know about my obsession with fibre… other than all the work bags and baskets. You may be surprised to know that the place is not awash with afghans, covered with crochet cushions nor festooned with felt. There are a few things around… felt tea cosy and camera case, lots of knitted socks and a variety of hats and gloves, but not much that’s showy or obvious. Around my office, you can see a knitted Nessie, crochet snail, mushrooms and bacteria, but they are quite discreet. Much of my work has been given away, swapped or sold. Soon, however, the masterpiece will adorn our bed and I will start on my Bavarian crochet afghan.

It's all too easy to lose a dog in our sofa

It’s all too easy to lose a dog in our sofa…

But right now I have embarked on a big new project. Our sofa is nearly 14 years old. It’s still comfy and we don’t want to get rid of it (despite the fact that it eats hair grips, crochet hooks, scissors and, occasionally, dogs), but it is looking rather tired and Sam has decided in recent years that all the zippers on the cushions are especially yummy and should be eaten. We have a spare set of covers, but we are fast running out of covers that have functioning zippers for the big square cushions (five of them) that go along the back. Fortunately, Sam has not noticed the large zipper up one side at the back of the sofa, so the two big covers are ok. In theory, I could replace the zippers, but I don’t want to for two reasons: (1) I hate putting in new zippers, and these are right along the top of each cushion, so are fiddly to replace, and (2) Sam would probably just eat them again (sigh). Anyway, it seems like a great excuse to yarnstorm my own home.

... but it's still comfy

… but it’s still comfy

And so, blue yarn has arrived and crochet fun has commenced. I’m making the first cushion cover with Attic24’s Neat Ripple pattern as this was so successful for the cushion I made for my sis. Originally my intention was to make them all the same, but I’m tempted to use the same palette for them all, but different designs (would this be too much?) I have chosen five colours from the New Lanark range of double knitting wool: sky haze, iris, limestone, navy and denim. It’s going to require rather a lot of yarn and many hours of work, but I think that it will look great when it’s done. So often people throw away perfectly good furniture because it’s got a bit worn, so it feels good to put some work into reinvigorating  this sofa.

The first cover is progressing

The first cover is progressing

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